Kingsbury’s two victories over Texas have numerous similarities


With last night’s victory over the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Kliff Kingsbury gained legendary status in the annals of Texas Tech football becoming the first Red Raider to beat Texas as a player and as a head coach.

As the Texas Tech starting quarterback in 2002 Kingsbury led the Red Raiders to an upset of the No. 3 Longhorns 42-38 on senior day in Lubbock. And the similarities between that game and what transpired Thursday night in Austin are striking.

In both games, Texas Tech needed a massive offensive output in order to secure the victory. In 2002, Texas Tech put up 602 yards of total offense with Kingsbury throwing for 473 yards and six touchdowns. Meanwhile, in this year’s victory Kingsbury’s offense tallied 665 yards but the 2015 Red Raiders were much more balanced.

Quarterback Pat Mahomes passed for 375 yards Thursday night while running back DeAndre Washington gained 173 yards on the ground. In contrast, the 2002 Red Raiders ran for only 98 yards against the Longhorns.

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But while this year’s Texas Tech team was less prolific through the air, just like in 2002 an undersized slot receiver made several huge plays.

On Thursday night, 5-foot-6 inside receiver Jakeem Grant made the three most memorable plays of the game. Though he caught only two passes, Grant tallied 105 receiving yards including a 65-yard touchdown on a tipped ball that looked to be intercepted. His 40-yard catch in the 4th quarter no only set Texas Tech up with a first-and-goal on the Texas 1-yard-line, it put Grant atop the Texas Tech all-time receiving yardage list passing Michael Crabtree and Wes Welker.

Speaking of Welker, in 2002’s upset of Texas the future NFL star was unstoppable. Welker, who like Grant received only one scholarship offer from a power-5 school coming out of high school, caught 14 balls for 169 yards and two touchdowns. And like Grant, Welker made an amazing touchdown grab that is remembered as one of his greatest moments as a Red Raider.

Early in the second quarter, Texas Tech was trailing 14-0 when Kingsbury escaped the Texas pass rush and threw a pass up for grabs in the middle of the field. Welker somehow appeared out of nowhere to jump between two defenders to come down with the ball and scoot into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.

The improbable touchdown grabs by Grant and Welker were the first Texas Tech scores in each game and both plays seemed to kick-start the Red Raider offense.

In addition, Grant and Welker both had excellent all-purpose games. Grant finished Thursday’s game with 205 total yards (105 receiving, 40 rushing and 60 on kick returns) while Welker amassed 247 all-purpose yards (169 receiving, 44 rushing and 38 punt return yards). But ultimately, both games required Texas Tech to go deep into the playbook to seal the win. And of course both star receivers were key figures in each play.

By now, everyone has seen Jakeem Grant’s 40-yard touchdown run from Thursday on a play similar to the old fumblerooskie (a play Kingsbury said he called “little people, big world”). At the snap, Grant was crouching directly behind the right guard and as Texas Tech ran a fake sweep to the right of the formation, Grant took the quick handoff from Mahomes and scampered around the left side of the defense for the score putting Texas Tech up 10 points with under three minutes to play.

In 2002, Kingsbury’s head coach, Mike Leach called his own daring trick play to seal the win against Texas.

After Texas Tech took the lead on a 25-yard pass from Kingsbury to Taurean Henderson, Red Raider safety Ryan Aycock intercepted Texas quarterback Chris Simms with 5:21 left in the game. But Texas Tech needed to keep the ball away from the Longhorns to preserve its 4-point lead.

Facing a 3rd-and-9 from its own 41-yard-line with just under three minutes to play, Kingsbury threw a lateral to receiver and former high school quarterback Mickey Peters who hit a streaking Welker with a perfect pass. The 35-yard gain set Texas Tech up with a first down at the Texas 29. From there Texas Tech was able to run out the clock and secure the victory.

For Texas Tech, defeating the University of Texas is always special and both times Kliff Kingsbury has engineered a win over Texas Tech’s most hated rival, small inside receivers that will forever be considered two of the greatest players in school history made unbelievable plays to carry their team to victory.

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But after Kingsbury beat UT in 2002, Texas Tech did not beat the Longhorns again for six years when Michael Crabtree scored with one second to play in 2008 to knock off the No.1 ranked Longhorns.

It would take another seven years before Texas Tech again beat Texas despite the fact that the last seven years of Texas football have been some of the worst seasons in the storied program’s history.

Now that Kingsbury has beaten the Horns as a player and as a coach, his next goal must be to ensure that Texas Tech can defeat Texas with regularity. When he accomplishes that feat his program will have truly turned the corner.